Rainforest of Reading Festival improves literacy in the Caribbean
Something amazing will be happening in the Caribbean this November, and it’s all thanks to a group of people who saw a literacy need in another part of the world, and took action to help.
Thanks to the One World Schoolhouse Foundation more than 8,000 schoolchildren in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat will receive books for their classrooms and get to meet eight popular Canadian kidlit authors and illustrators.
The Rainforest of Reading Festival is one program the foundation puts on “to help kickstart the love of reading and nurture a generation of imaginative and creative thinkers in the Caribbean,” said executive director Sonya White.
“Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and volcanoes, as well as a lack of funds have contributed to a serious decline in the number of libraries in the Caribbean,” she said. The number of books available to children there, including in the classroom, is severely limited; often there is just one textbook for the whole class.
The Rainforest of Reading program was inspired by Canada’s Forest of Reading program, which gives elementary school kids in Canada a chance to read a selection of great books and then vote for their favourites.
Here’s what’s going to be happening in the Caribbean in November:
- Twelve books were nominated—including GABBY. Click here to see the list of all books that were nominated for Rainforest of Reading Award.
- 450 copies of each book were sent to the Caribbean—one set for each Grade 3 and Grade 4 classroom in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat.
- Each class also receives a teacher’s kit, a “Bananagrams” game, book passports and posters.
The teacher’s kit walks the teacher through the program. You can download the Rainforest of Reading Teacher’s Kit here.
- Teachers put up posters, which feature the book covers, in their classroom. The posters also have room for each child to check off the books as they read them.
- The children also answer questions about each book.
- Each child gets a “passport.” After they’ve read a book, they get a sticker for their passport until they’ve read all 12.
- The teachers fill out a survey before and after the program, so they can measure how far their kids have come.
DURING THE FESTIVAL
- Eight Canadian authors and illustrators are flying to the Caribbean to participate in the festival. (They’re each travelling on their own dime; the foundation will pay for their room and board.)
- The children vote for their favourite books in two categories: fiction and non-fiction. The teachers submit their votes via the website (by Nov. 19). There are separate winners for St. Lucia and Grenada.
- On Festival Day—it’s a different date depending on what city you live in—classes travel by bus or car (sometimes a long way) to the festival site. The dates are: Montserrat, Nov. 18; Grenada Nov. 25, St. Lucia Nov. 27 and 28.
- A parade will start the festival. Just like the Olympics, the book titles are paraded in. Schools have chosen a book to champion, and the kids from that school will dress up or create floats to represent their book in the “Parade of Readers.”
- The Canadian authors and illustrators who have travelled from Canada will each have a tent, where they’ll sign books and passports, talk to the kids and run activity centres.
- The kids will file into the festival area and meet the authors and illustrators. They’ll also do crafts and activities.
Here’s a terrific video of us packing up the books and teaching supplies that were sent to the Caribbean in August 2014.
One World Schoolhouse also gathers books given to them by Canadian schools and ships them—about nine tonnes of fiction and non-fiction books as well as underutilized school textbooks—to the Caribbean.
In the future, they plan to expand their program to include computers for use in schools in the Caribbean.
I just love it when kids write their own stories using Gabby and her friends as the main characters. Recently, a class of Grade 2 students at Davisville Public School wrote and illustrated some phenomenal stories. I was presented with a big binder of them, which I will cherish.
And today, a class of Grade 3 students at R.H. McGregor School each read out their Gabby stories. And what great stories they were! In one, Gabby got hit by a truck (she’s fine). In another, she was burglarized and in another she was framed for a bank robbery! She lost her magic word book a few times, and she lost her dog — only to find that Mrs. Oldham had dog-napped it! She lost her glasses, went to Africa, went missing, ended up stuck inside her magic word book, won first place in a reality-based music show, had to hunt down her neighbour, went to a baseball game, asked Roy to the prom, went to the hospital, went to the zoo — and so much more!
The kids’ writing was thoughtful and evocative and really exciting. I learned that lots of kids like “big adventures” for Gabby — hit by a car?! — and aren’t afraid of a little espionage in their picture books.
As an author, especially one who’s working on the next Gabby book, I learned a lot about the kinds of stories kids want to hear, and the ways in which Gabby can be part of them.
Thanks to all of the wonderful writers at Davisville and R.H. McGregor!
We had some exciting news recently.
Gabby has been selected as a nominee for the Rainforest of Reading award, 2014.
Created and supported by the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, it’s similar to Canada’s Forest of Reading festival, except it’s in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.
The foundation brings much-needed literature to the region. As well, it holds a huge book festival for the area’s grade three students. The students each get a passport which they have signed every time they read one of the books.
They also get to visit some of the authors, who make the trek to St. Lucia for the festival in November.
And this year, I’m going — along with Gabby illustrator Jan Dolby. We’re so excited!
Not only is the nomination exciting, but as a long-time literacy advocate I’m really focussing on the opportunity to bring books and reading to the lovely grade 3 students in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.
We’re in good company. Here are all of the books nominated for the award:
• “Don’t Laugh at Giraffe” written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender. Pajama Press.
• “Willow Finds a Way” written by Lana Button. Illustrated by Tania Howells.
Kids Can Press.
• “Skink on the Brink” written by Lisa Dalrymple. Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “Postcards from Space: The Chris Hadfield Story” written by Heather Down. Echo Books/Wintertickle Press.
• “Gabby” written by Joyce Grant. Illustrated by Jan Dolby. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “And the Winner is…Amazing Animal Athletes” written by Etta Kaner. Illustrated by
David Anderson. Kids Can Press.
• “Pterosaur Trouble” written by Daniel Loxton. Illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim
W. W. Smith. Kids Can Press.
• “Mr. Flux” written by Kyo Maclear. Illustrated by Matte Stephens. Kids Can Press.
• “Anna Carries Water” by Olive Senior. Illustrated by Laura James. Tradewind Books.
• “Kenta and the Big Wave” written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi. Annick Press.
• “My Name is Blessing” written by Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.
I’ll be posting more information about the award and the festival. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Rainforest of Reading website (it will be updated with the new nominee list on July 31).
Gabby’s second quirky adventure is now on store shelves.
We haven’t officially launched the book yet, and we’ll let you know when that party will be. (Hint: you’re invited.)
In the meantime, I signed some copies of Gabby and Gabby: Drama Queen at the wonderful Playful Minds toy store on St. Clair Ave. to help them celebrate their 10th anniversary.